Tech Support: The Latest In Legislation Designed To ‘Level Playing Field’ For Publishers And Big Tech

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The ongoing battle between Big Tech and publishers has seen some particularly bloody action recently, headlined by Google’s recent launch of AI Overviews. But you’d have to be a hallucinating, pizza-glue-and-rock-eating tool to think the content-creators wouldn’t continue to put up a fight. And in the last week, publishers have seen some big allies step up in their corner.

Last week, the UK Parliament passed the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, which would not only compel tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple to pay publishers for their news content, but would establish a regulatory body that would create consumer-focused codes and be empowered to impose fines for abuses.

“The passage of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill marks a very important milestone in addressing market failure in the digital economy, and ultimately delivering a level playing field between publishers and platforms,” says Owen Meredith, chief executive of The News Media Association. “The [Competition and Markets Authority] must prioritize designation of firms and services where harms have the greatest societal impact, and the new regime must empower news publishers to reap fair reward for their investment in news — helping to secure a sustainable future for trusted independent UK journalism for many years to come.”

Stateside, the Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted to advance the Journalism Preservation Act, which we’ve been following closely (along with California’s similar CJPA) as it too calls for tech companies to pay a usage fee for news content. 

News/Media Alliance reports that some amendments were made in committee last week, including “to change payouts from a ratio of news impressions to payouts per journalist employed; steering the funds in-state; and extra funds allocated for small publications,” but the larger crux — that publishers would be required to put 70% of those fees toward journalism jobs — remains.

“States like Illinois and California are leading the U.S. in taking meaningful action to require the tech platforms to come to the negotiating table and fairly compensate publishers for the use of their valuable content,” says Danielle Coffey, News/Media Alliance president and CEO.

At the same time the journalism-preserving acts are, as MediaPost puts it, “drawing most of the attention and threats to cut off news,” a different California bill passed by the appropriations committee earlier this month may be making Big Tech feel “even more antagonized.”

Senate Bill 1327, as introduced by Senator Steve Glazer, would impose a “data extraction mitigation fee” on tech companies that would raise $500 million annually and ultimately be split among the state’s news outlets. 

“Glazer likened the rise of the tech giants to a new Gold Rush,” writes The Sacramento Bee’s Andrew Sheeler, “but instead of gold, these companies harvest massive amounts of data against which they can sell ads. This has come, Glazer said, at the expense of the news industry, much of which is heavily reliant on ad revenue.”

With the stakes continuing to rise and with no clear end in sight, this back-and-forth chess match continues to be as compelling as it is existential. 

Stay tuned!


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